Stress is a natural part of life that can affect you in various ways. Stress can come from external factors such as work, relationships, and financial issues or internal factors like self-doubt and worry. While some stress is necessary for motivation and growth, too much stress can harm your mental health. This is where understanding the difference between eustress and distress becomes crucial.
Eustress is a positive form of stress, while distress can cause symptoms that can be harmful if left untreated. Knowing how to tell the difference between these types of stress can help you learn to cope with the different types of stress more effectively, preventing overwhelm and more adverse effects on your mental health. This article helps define what stress is, discusses the signs of eustress vs distress, how to manage stress healthily, and more.
What is Stress?
Stress is a physiological response to any demand or threat in your environment. It triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response to prepare you to face any perceived danger. In small doses, stress can be beneficial in helping you stay focused and alert in challenging situations. When stress becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Eustress VS Distress
Eustress is a positive form of stress that motivates and energizes you healthily. It is often described as the “good stress” that pushes you to reach your goals and succeed personally and professionally.
Examples of eustress situations include:
- Planning a wedding
- Starting a new job or project
- Taking on a physical challenge like running a marathon
Now that you know some situations that can cause eustress, here is what eustress can feel like.
Signs of eustress include:
- Feeling excited and enthusiastic about challenges
- Increased energy and motivation in pursuit of goals
- Improved performance in tasks
- A healthy level of challenge and stimulation
- Sense of accomplishment
As you can see in the examples and signs of eustress lists, there is a positive feeling, usually noting excitement and a sense of accomplishment associated with this kind of stress. While the goal or task may require a lot of effort and energy, and may feel draining at some points, the mental awareness surrounding the effort is positive.
Distress is harmful stress that can cause negative feelings and emotions. This kind of stress is often associated with feelings of anxiety, frustration, and helplessness.
Situations that may cause distress include:
- Losing a job or experiencing financial difficulties
- Going through a breakup or divorce
- Coping with a chronic illness or disability
Here are some signs of distress to look out for if you have experienced situations like those just mentioned.
Signs of Distress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed and anxious
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, and muscle tension
As seen above, the general feeling of distress is taxing and weighs heavy on the mind and body. This taxing feeling differs from the effects of eustress, making it easy to tell the difference between eustress vs distress.
Managing Stress in a Healthy Way
While you cannot completely eliminate stress from your life, you can learn to manage it healthily to minimize the adverse effects of specific symptoms.
Here are some healthy ways to reduce and cope with stress:
- Reduce stress: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation to lower your stress level and help you have more resilience over stress in the future.
- Reframe Negative Thoughts and Patterns: Identify and challenge negative thoughts that contribute to stress and replace them with more positive and realistic ones. Notice if you have self-limiting beliefs, catastrophizing thoughts, or self-sabotage. These are thought patterns learned over time and only serve to keep you in a more strained and stressful state.
- Seek support: Support from friends, family, or a professional therapist in times of distress is hugely beneficial. Isolation from others when you feel distress can intensify symptoms. Being around others who care about you allows you to share your experiences and process your feelings. A professional counselor can identify thought patterns or behaviors that you may not see that can contribute to the build-up of stress, making symptoms worse. Your counselor can give you specific techniques for managing stress based on what you have already tried and what can work best for you.
Utilizing these coping strategies can help you reduce stress now and increase your ability to process stress more easily in the future.
How Counseling Can Help Manage Stress
Counseling can be a valuable resource in learning healthy coping skills to manage both eustress and distress. A counselor can help identify the root causes of your stress and provide you with tools and techniques to cope healthily. They can also assist in changing negative thought patterns, improving communication skills, and building resilience in the face of stress.
Standard symptom management techniques include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques
- Relaxation and breathing exercises
- Effective communication skills in relationships
Once your counselor understands your stress and how it affects you, they will recommend symptom management strategies and techniques proven to help reduce symptoms and increase resilience. This personalized plan is tailored to your root causes and what will work best for you.
Distress is not a light condition. It can affect your productivity, ability to focus, and many areas of your daily life. A counselor is the first step toward improving your mental health now and in the future.
Understanding the difference between eustress vs distress is essential to managing stress effectively. While eustress can be beneficial in small doses, distress can harm your mental health and quality of life. By recognizing the signs of each and learning healthy coping strategies, you can reduce the adverse effects of stress in your life and better handle what life hands you in the future.
If you are struggling with managing stress, call us at (833)-274-heal or schedule an appointment today to talk to a counselor who can help you learn how to create healthy coping skills and reduce stress. It’s time to take care of yourself and prioritize your mental health.